Like the fava beans I wrote about recently, rhubarb is one of those crops that has a fairly brief season so you have to just grab it when you see it. Unlike favas, rhubarb doesn’t require an lengthy, 2-step shelling process, however, making it infinitely more appealing. Sure you have to cook it- no one would recommend biting into a stalk of raw rhubarb- but with a little simmering, a little sugar, and some ingenuity, there are a myriad of ways to bring out that tart, delicious flavor.
Last year, I made excellent use of my rhubarb with strawberry-rhubarb-ginger ice cream and an awesome strawberry-rhubarb crumble. This year, I bought my rhubarb with the original intention of being a little less decadent and trying out Rachel’s recipe for rhubarb-oatmeal bread for the Coconut and Lime blogiversary contest. But as I went to make it, I discovered that our flour supplies verged on empty, making a bread out of the question. With the rhubarb rapidly aging I turned to my old friend, Epicurious, and discovered the intriguingly titled rhubarb strawberry pudding cake from the April 2007 issue of Gourmet.
I am a big fan of pudding cakes- those ooey, gooey messes that tend to come together with a minimum of fuss and more importantly, a minimum of dishes. I loved the chocolate pudding cake that I threw together with great acclaim for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, so trying a fruity variation seemed ingenious. (Not to mention that we had everything we needed right there in the fridge and pantry, making it seem even more like it was meant to be…) So pudding cake it was and really, I can only say two negative things about it: 1) that we didn’t have any ice cream or whipped cream to top it with because that would have been completely fabulous, and 2) that it isn’t particularly photogenic, which might dissuade some readers from trying it. But that would be a big mistake. It was light, fruity, and moist- cake-like in texture, but crumble-like in its informality, a lovely end to a spring evening. If you’ve still got rhubarb in season where you live and are looking for an easy, casual weeknight dessert, don’t overlook this humble little pudding cake.
Rhubarb strawberry pudding cake (serves six to eight)
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb stalks (10 ounces)
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries (5 ounces)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
2. Stir together water, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan, then stir in rhubarb. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in strawberries.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Whisk together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.
4. Reserve 1/2 cup fruit mixture, then add remainder to baking dish and pour batter over it, spreading evenly. Drizzle reserved 1/2 cup fruit mixture over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes before serving.